Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography
The joy of featuring local office design is showing spaces that you and I may never get the chance to see. In the heart of Downtown Fargo, Gate City Bank has been busy at work renovating their second-floor. To explain it, we ask you to imagine coming to work in an environment which mimics a beautiful home. Now imagine that home with stunning artwork, high-end finishes, nine TVs, a treadmill workstation, state-of-the-art kitchen and an array of collaborative workspaces to suit your every mood. To find out why Gate City Bank believes their space defines their culture, we met with Jay Krabbenhoft, Senior Vice President of Administration, who gave us an in-depth tour of their new, second-floor space designed to inspire… with all the comforts of home.
Renewal & Renovation | Second Floor
To create a more inviting atmosphere for everyone, Chairman, President and CEO, Steve Swiontek provided his vision to the Gate City Bank design team who collaborated with architect Andrew Koedam of Wild | CRG. With Wild | CRG officing within the Gate City Bank building, he has become embedded in their culture, often attending company events and gatherings to better understand their culture, goals and needs.
Serving over 250 corporate office employees, Gate City Bank’s goal was to create a work environment that would exceed the needs of their team members. To accomplish this, all of the workstations are designed to accommodate a sit or stand option, with adjustable desk heights and three monitors.
Although most would assume an open office plan would result in amplified noise levels, this space is specifically engineered for sound reduction via architectural elements like extra floor padding and a specialized drapery which absorbs noise.
Along the atrium’s south wall, Gate City Bank has undergone an extensive facelift, creating a new wall of 13-foot windows harvesting abundant natural light and aiding in their employee’s well-being.
Investing in an Inspired Environment
Gate City Bank is well-known for being an avid supporter of the art community. Over 80 percent of their paintings, pottery and sculpture pieces are sourced from local artists and galleries.
Second-Floor Artists Featured:
Boyd Sharp, Susan Piazza, Carrie Swanke, Mary Johnston, Josaine Childers, Smith Carney, Barnes, Michael Thompson, Tim McFadden, Sandi Dahl, Will Richard, Hong, Yuenxu, Kathleen Hope, P.T. Tiersky, Mantin, Sue Boyd, James Wolberg, Linda Kall, Ursula Brenner and Davidson.
“By creating visually appealing, unique, and transparent working environments for our team members, we’re able to foster a culture of creativity and innovation. We have a passion for making the lives of our customers and team members better, by investing in them and their communities for a better way of life.”
Steve Swiontek, Chairman, President and CEO, Gate City Bank.
For this renovation, the bank worked with local artists to carefully choose each piece and location for install. “There are over 250 people who work in this building, so we believe everyone here should get to enjoy local art. It helps support the art community and it enhances the work environment,” explained Krabbenhoft. “The better part of our day is spent at work, so it’s nice to be able to incorporate some fun and creativity. We want all of the team members to experience each piece, so we move and circulate the art amongst the different floors for everyone to enjoy.”
“We really have to give all the credit to our Chairman, President, and CEO Steve Swiontek, for setting the tone for us to do this. He really drives this unique culture and truly believes in investing in his team and their environment. The second-floor renovation is proof of this commitment. This is designed solely for the health and well-being of the team,” said Krabbenhoft.
Transforming Walls into Art
At the entrance to the second floor, their renovation sets the tone with a custom-designed, diamond-plate ceramic tile floor and laser-cut wall art which is positioned over a metallic wall and back-lit with color-changing LEDs. This stunning design feature is the first of its kind in North Dakota.
“I think great design, art, furniture and lighting really engage people in their work. It makes the day so much more pleasant. By creating this type of environment, it shows a commitment and investment in all of their team members.”
Andrew Koedam, AIA – Vice President, Architect at Wild | CRG
Comforts of Home
As part of their unique and intuitive work culture, Gate City Bank offers employees access to an array of tools and amenities to help create comfort and increase productivity. Team members have access to different types of communal spaces and meeting rooms, adjustable desks, kitchens, TVs, reverse osmosis drinking water and specialized temperature-controlled environments.
Fabrics & Furnishings
To create a space which mimics the comforts of home, Gate City Bank chose thoughtful furnishings and fabrics with a residential feel. Collaborating with the commercial furniture manufacturer, they’ve taken office furniture to a new level with unconventional, quilted fabrics and residential-influenced patterns and designs.
Conference Rooms + Cameras
With video conferencing between all of their locations, the team has designed a specialized conference table in the shape of a wedge to accommodate the camera swing. “Video conferencing really works well for us to have an open dialogue and communication with all of our coworkers from Williston to Alexandria,” said Krabbenhoft. To absorb outside noise, they’ve once again incorporated specially engineered drapery, which has an added design effect of softening the office environment.
Designed as a smaller, video conferencing room, this space is also considered a huddle room for brainstorming sessions and a space to utilize when more privacy is required. In an open work plan like this one, Gate City Bank believes in the need to provide diverse work environments for diverse needs.
The Collaborative Work Area
On the southeast side, we found their Collaborative Work Area, a beautiful space designed with multi-faceted functionality. This is not considered the employee lounge, but space where up to 20 staff members can work or meet with others. “I liken it to a student union where you grab a beverage and snack and meet with your team members,” explained Krabbenhoft.
With a full kitchen and open pantry on site, this area provides a hot beverage station, pellet ice machine, full appliance offerings and custom-designed, laminate cabinetry with a matching, wrapped refrigerator. The team uses the kitchen for official bank functions and company gatherings like potlucks. “When you design for a commercial setting, it’s a different process,” said Koedam. “You have to make everything intuitive so that all of the appliances and features are easily recognizable and usable, even to new team members.”
In the corner of the room, Krabbenhoft took an interesting design cue from a local university by mimicking their upholstered step seating. This is part of their Collaborative Work Area which provides one more comfortable and transitional space to work, complete with a built-in tray for drinks or snacks.
Transparency in the Workplace
At Gate City Bank, the majority of their offices are equitable in style and size with only a handful of them designed to be larger spaces. Almost all offices are enclosed in glass to help integrate a more transparent management style.
Taking Comfort in the Details
When it comes to more private areas like the restrooms, doors were made discreet with a continuation of the hand-painted, metal wall covering. Inside, their signature style continues with a flat-screen TV, dual vanities and ample art.
As part of their intuitive design, four coat closets on this floor are left open with TVs overhead – a simple way to encourage team members to store their coats during the work day, versus keeping them at their desks.
Walk at Work
One of the newest additions to the office is their treadmill workstation, specially designed for an office setting. Here, team members can find a change of pace while catching up on their emails. Gate City Bank regularly experiments with out-of-the-box ideas like this one that might bring a new element to their company culture.
Bringing more life to a corporate setting, flat screen TVs are accessed throughout the office and in all 36 locations. “Everyone’s accustomed to TVs in the background now, so we usually have it on HGTV or Food Network, unless there is something going on like the Olympics or a local sports game,” said Krabbenhoft. “On this floor alone, we have nine TVs set on a low or muted volume and people seem to really like it. It really does not interfere with their work, it just adds some color and movement to the background.”
Here, the atrium is not just a stunning feature with a view overlooking the first floor, it provides a necessary connection between the two floors and helps disperse natural light from the upper floor windows.
Conscious & Confidential
Primarily considered a paperless office, each of the workstations features three screens to help eliminate excessive printing. With an effort to promote cleaner, greener communities, this floor has only two shared printers. This helps keep printing to a minimum and also aids with the confidentiality of their customer’s information.
Protecting customer information and employees is of utmost importance, so all entrances to this floor are private with security locks, motion detection cameras and check-ins by visitors are required.
In the works!
Utilizing every floor of their 1956 Downtown Fargo skyrise, Gate City Bank is not finished renovating. Currently, in progress is the lower level’s Innovation Center, scheduled to be complete by Christmas – this space will consist of a kitchen and six meeting rooms with two of those rooms expanding to create one large meeting room that will seat over 50 people.
Find the Finishes:
Architect – Andrew Koedam, Wild | CRG
Interior Designer – Karen Bye, Accomplished Design
Workstation furniture and treadmill – Business Essentials
Glass office enclosures – Fargo Glass & Paint
Lighting – Underbrush Gallery, SCHEELS Home & Hardware
Cabinetry – Fargo Cabinets
Countertops – Granites Unlimited
Tilework – McArthur Tile Co.
Painting – Morris Painting & Decorating
Dakota Fence, Custom Aire, ETS, Precision Concrete Cutters, Inc., Mid America Steel, Inc., Red River Fabricating, Inc., Ledgestone, Inc., Waters Construction, G&M Lathing Contractors, Inc., Sig Olson & Sons Plastering, Inc., Flament-Ulman, Inc., Lunseth, JDP Electric, Inc, Miller Insulation, Fabricators, ISED, Fegley Services, MBN Engineering, Solien & Larson Engineering, Nova Fire Protection, Toshiba Business Solutions, City of Fargo
For more information, contact:
Gate City Bank
Amy Durbin, Vice President of Marketing & Business Intelligence
701.293.2497Gate City Bank
Jay Krabbenhoft, Senior Vice President of Administration
500 Second Avenue North, Fargo
Wild | CRG
Andrew Koedam, AIA – Vice President, Architect
500 Second Avenue North, Suite 514, Fargo